Objective 21

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Chapter 14

To my left, the yellow dotted lines that rolled by were almost hypnotizing. I knew I should’ve been focusing on the street signs and landmarks, but I found it almost impossible to concentrate on anything but my thoughts.

“Where does he even live?” Macon asked.

“I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me, remember?”

“Maybe you should try asking him again.”

“He’s not picking up his phone anymore,” I replied. “I tried the house phone, too.”

Macon dropped his forehead into the palm of his hand. He stared at the dashboard so intensely that he could’ve made the airbags go off with his glare. “So we’re just gonna drive around until you find it?”

I glanced through my rearview mirror at the street sign that I’d just missed. It didn’t sound familiar. “I have a general idea,” I said. “It’s not like I haven’t been there before. I just don’t remember the address.” I bit down hard on my lip as I stared past the steering wheel. It was dusk, and although a corner of the sky was still lit, the street was darkening. The houses were becoming shadowed, making our task all the more difficult. “I just hope we find it before he does something.”

Macon glanced over at me from the passenger seat. “Hey. Relax, alright? He’ll be fine.” He placed his hand on my arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “He’s drugged but he’s not retarded.”

“You didn’t hear him talking, dude. He’s really messed up.”

“Is it a bad trip?” Macon asked. “Like, did he sound like he was freaking out?”

“I’m not sure,” I told him honestly. I didn’t have much experience with this crap. Leave it to Will to drag me into it.

“But he’s with someone, isn’t he? How much could possibly go wrong?”

“He’s alone,” I murmured. “And he could’ve just decided that a two-story window is a portal to Narnia or something.”

Macon let out a sharp laugh, but it was more tense-sounding than anything. “I think that only happens with acid. Chill out and just don’t think about that. Just worry about getting there,” he suggested. “Does this place look familiar at all?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I know we’re in the right area, but the streets down here are so complicated. It’s confusing as shit.”

The roads in this particular section of town weren’t nicely parallel and placed at perfect ninety degree angles like the streets where I lived. The asphalt here twisted and turned as though the houses had been scattered at random and then the blacktop was poured.

“Do you know anyone you can call for his address?”

I thought for a moment, mentally scanning through the people in my phone’s contact list. “No,” I decided. “Will and I didn’t really know the same types of people.” Then, as an afterthought, I added, “Probably because he does reckless shit like this.”

Macon and I sat quietly as the car rhythmically started and stopped, slowing to a halt at the stop signs and then accelerated again.

“His street is something-water,” I murmured aloud.

Macon’s head fell against the fabric of the passenger seat. “The last four streets we passed were Ocean Water, East Water, Calm water, and Hidden Water,” he groaned.

I shook my head. “I don’t think it’s any of those,” I said. I tried desperately hard to remember the directions his mom had given me in the beginning of the summer when I’d gone to visit him, but that seemed so long ago and my mind was blank now.

Then we came to a halt at the next corner and my vision jumped to the street sign. It read “Tide Water,” and its familiarity made my heart jump.

“That’s his house, the corner one!” I recognized the high pillars and interesting layout. His house had just been stuccoed no more than a week before I’d been there the first time for a backyard show, and my memory was jogged as soon I saw the plastered walls.

The Taurus had barely stopped before Macon and I were out. In contrast to the cool air that had been circulating around the car, the humidity out here was almost suffocating.

I shifted my weight from my heels to my toes as we waited for the door to open. When it didn’t, I rang the bell again. I could hear the chiming melody even from out here on the stoop, and it seemed impossible that its volume could go unnoticed. I immediately started to think the worst.

“He’s fine. Give him a second,” Macon said, reading the anxiety in the way I moved.

The door finally opened, but it wasn’t Will standing there. It was his father, or so I assumed. The man in front of us was just as tall as Will, maybe taller, with a different facial structure but the same slightly-upturned nose. He looked as though he’d just gotten back from work; his tie was undone around his neck and his dress shoes were off, revealing bleach-white socks.

“Hello.” The questioning tone of his voice was directed at us, the two weird-ass jumpy kids who were just standing on his doorstep and staring at him.

“Hi.” The word had come out three octaves higher than usual. Macon glanced over at me from the corner of his eye, silently telling me to stop acting so apprehensive.

“Is there…” He cleared his throat and shifted his eyes between Macon and me before he finished, “something I can help you with?”

“I was wondering if I—we—could talk to Will?”

I hoped to God he would just let us up the stairs rather than leading us to his room; the last thing Will needed right now was for his father to catch him tripping balls like this. Will’s dad, however, did neither. His response was, “You just missed him.”

“He left?” I asked, my eyes going wide.

“Yep. Slipped out the door right as I came home. Probably late for something, as usual,” the man said. He was way off base with the situation, but as far as Will’s inability to be on time, he couldn’t have been more accurate; when we went to Six Flags with the school band in my junior year of high school, Will had shown up not thirty seconds before the busses pulled out of the parking lot.

“Do you know where he went?” Macon asked, unlatching his mouth for the first time since the door had opened.

“Nope. Didn’t say anything to me.”

My eyes jumped to the driveway; his green minivan was still parked outside, and my panic lessened a little upon realizing that at least he wasn’t behind the wheel of a vehicle.

“Alright,” I said, both relieved and disappointed at the same time. Will hadn’t been caught, but as far as finding him went, Macon and I were back at square one. “Thanks anyway,” I told him, turning back toward the car.

“You’re welcome,” he called to us. “When he comes home, I’ll tell him you were looking for him.” Then I heard the door close and Macon and I got back into the Taurus.

I put my hands on the wheel, but I didn’t start up the engine. I didn’t do anything but stare straight ahead through the windshield at the stationary road in front of us.

“What now?” Macon asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

We tried calling Will again, but twice I was predictably met with the sound of his voicemail message. Then, after carelessly tossing my phone into the back seat, I let my head drop against the steering wheel.

“We’re not finding this kid,” I concluded. “He’s wandering aimlessly through town, probably still high as a fucking kite, and the odds that we’re going to run into him are—”

Then I heard a faint buzzing sound from the back of the car, and after an exchanged glance between Macon and I, we both dove for the phone. God knew that if the rings happened to run out, Will wouldn’t have the attention span to sit through the motorized voicemail menu.

Macon got to the phone first; it had lodged itself underneath the lever that slid the seats backwards and forwards. “Here,” he yelled, tossing it to me from across the car.

When I looked down at the front screen, though, I saw that it wasn’t him; at first, my stomach dropped again. Then, however, I realized that the person calling me (granted said person wasn’t on shrooms, too) could help me much more than Will would’ve been able to. The caller ID read, “Kristen Will’s sis.” I had no clue how I could’ve been so absentminded.

When Will and I had still been in high school, we’d gone to this one particular ska show in the city. He’d had an extra ticket, so he brought his (at the time) twenty-two year old sister.

When the three of us got to the venue, it’d been absolutely packed. Kristen and I both knew of Will’s talent for wandering off, so we exchanged phone numbers before the show started. After that night, I’d never called the phone number again, but I still hadn’t deleted it. Once again, my ridiculously old phone had played to my advantage.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Hi,” she spoke. Her voice, thank God, gave off the impression that she was sober. “Is this Andy?”

“Yeah. Kristen?”

“Yep. William’s sister. Hey.” Kristen sounded chipper, despite the given circumstances. I wondered if maybe she didn’t know that her brother was currently hopped up on psychedelics, but I couldn’t think of any other reason why she’d call. I settled on the conclusion that she was used to him pulling shit like this.

“Are you with William?” she asked. My mood fell. So she didn’t know where he was.

“No,” I told her. “I’m in the car looking for him. He’s apparently on—”

“Shrooms, I know.” Something in her voice hinted at her amusement. I, however, did not see the humor here. “He just called me.”

“Did he tell you where he was?” I asked.

“Nope,” Kristen answered. “Even if he did, I’d have no way of getting to him. I’m in an airport in California right now. I’m here for my best friend’s wedding.”

“Ah, shit,” I murmured. Macon was staring at me, trying to pull the details from the one-sided conversation.

“But yeah, I just got off the phone with him. Told me he was tripping balls. He said he’s waiting for you to come.” Then Kristen laughed. “He apparently set up a game of Monopoly for the two of you to play and everything.”

“He’s not at your house. I just checked,” I told her.

I heard an announcement go off in the background; something about a particular plane boarding. She listened, and when she found that it didn’t pertain to her, Kristen asked, “Do you know Will’s friend Phil Beranger?”

“I know of him,” I responded. “I’ve met him once or twice at a few parties Will dragged me to, but I’m not really friends with him or anything. Why?”

“I think I heard him talking in the background,” Kristen said. “You might want to give his house a try. It’s only a few blocks from mine.”

I sat up straight, thrilled with any piece of information that might help. “Do you know the address?” I asked. My voice immediately picked up, and Macon raised his eyebrows hopefully at the change of tone.

“Something Bay Drive,” she said, her voice low as she racked her brain. “Nine sounds right. It’s an end house, too.”

“Thank you,” I said, the words mixing with a relieved exhale. “I’m really worried about him.”

“Don’t mention it,” she said. “And don’t worry so much. He’s done worse than this.”

“Like?” I asked.

“Like the time he left his hash brownies out and our dad accidentally ate one.”

“Oh good Lord,” I groaned. Maybe he just didn’t have a brain at all.

Kristen laughed. “Yep. What can I say. My brother’s an idiot,” she stated. “Have William call me if you find him, k?”

With the phone balanced between my shoulder and my ear, I put the keys in the ignition and started the car. “Alright, I will. Thanks again.”

“You’re welcome. Bye.”

“Bye.” I hung up the phone and shoved it into my pocket rather than tossing it in the back in this time. Then I pressed my foot to the acceleration and we were moving again.

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